It's a shame that more people don't understand socialism in the United States but it follows from our official ideology. The thing about understanding socialism is that it isn't Marxism, although Marxism might inform it and be an inspiration to some people. Like on the sidebar here, under essential books, I put down "Socialism in America, from the Shakers to the Third International", edited by Fried, because it deals not with various ideological contests but with the living socialist tradition as expressed by everyone from religious socialists, to utopian socialists to social democrats, marxists, communists, and even a few anarchists (I believe). The living tradition of socialism is more important than Marxism, although Marxism itself is very valuable as an analysis, which everyone should at least be familiar with. But the socialist tradition is something else; and this is where anarchist writings are especially valuable. Anarchists were very, very, good at analyzing society in terms of current reality and proposing solutions which were practical and immediately relevant. Often, within the socialist tradition, the anarchists are more perceptive than their non-anarchist brethren because of their sensitivity to things like the possible exploitive nature of the state and power in general, whether possessed by parties, unions, or other power groups.
I'm trying to think up a good reading list which will get people familiar with the socialist tradition as it exists, which will hopefully include anarchist writings as well as writings by people who are more conventional social democrats or just plain socialists. Marxist-Leninists will be mostly excluded from this unless they actually fit into the socialist tradition as people who understand society as opposed to as ideologues. Decent explanations of Marxism will also be up there.
It's not that these things are difficult to understand so much as they're mainly unavailable. Hopefully some of that unavailability will be mitigated by a list like this. It's out there, but if a person can't find it they can't understand it, or at the least they have a bigger task at hand in trying to understand what these people are talking about, what's valuable, what socialism means.